Meet the Orchestra: Clarinets

This week it’s the Clarinets. On the far left is TJ, who has been with Citywide Symphony for more than a decade. His main instrument is clarinet, but he has dabbled in trombone, sax, bassoon and even violin for 2 weeks. He has been playing throughout his life, even when he briefly lived in Denver, he played in a community band there. He is a big fan of music in video games, especially Final Fantasy, and counts among his favorite concert experiences seeing the Chicago Symphony play Final Fantasy music live.

In the middle is Deanna, who joined Citywide Symphony in 2016. She has been playing clarinet since 5th grade through Concordia University and has played in the Chicago Philharmonic side-by-side concerts.

On the far right is Emily, who is part of a very musical family. Her family owns a music store. While she plays clarinet, other members of her family play the trumpet, trombone, and percussion, and her mom plays the cello. She has recently dabbled in violin so she can do Christmas duets with her mom. She is a 2nd-grade teacher as well.

Rounding out the clarinets, but not pictured, is Julie, who also joined Citywide Symphony in 2016. She’s played clarinet since the age of 10 through college. Let’s hear it for the clarinets, who have some pretty important solos in the upcoming concert!

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

Come to CWSO’s Fall Concert!

We’re excited to share registration details for our next concert! The concert will take place on October 30, 2022, at the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse.

Attendance is free, but space is limited, and standing room will not be available. Register on the Chicago Park District Website.

Concert Program

Petite Suite de Concert, Op.77

Composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a very successful, critically acclaimed Black composer, active in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He took to music from a young age, and joined the Royal College of Music at age 15, and in 1904, he was invited to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt, even despite the racial tensions of the time. The Petite Suite de Concert, Op. 77, remains a popular piece of his oeuvre, recently also having been played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In the Hall of the Mountain King, from the Peer Gynt Suite

Composed by Edvard Grieg

This selection from Peer Gynt is known for its creeping melody, rising slowly in speed and octave over the course of the piece. Because of its frantic energy and the striking story this music tells, it is frequently used in popular film, television, video games, and even as a sample in popular music.

Barber of Seville Overture

Composed by Gioachino Rossini

The Barber of Seville is a 2-act opera buffa, or “comic opera,” based on Pierre Beaumarchais’ French comedy of the same title. That it remains a popular work to this day is a testament to this musical masterpiece.

Funeral March of a Marionette

Composed by Charles Gounod

This piece is best known for its use as the theme music for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, a 1950-60s television anthology hosted and produced by filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, cementing this piece as an iconic piece of American media.

Interested in Joining the CWSO?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal. We’ll be off October 31, but rehearsals resume Monday, November 7, at 7 pm.

Meet the Orchestra: Bassoons

This week it’s the Bassoons. On the left is Sally, her first time back on the bassoon in 20 years, though she came close to pursuing bassoon professionally. She switched from flute to bassoon in 6th grade because there were 32 flutes in the band—you heard that right—32! But she’s glad she did and worked hard and received a musical scholarship to pursue bassoon in college. Maybe she worked too hard because she burned out on music and decided to change track just one week before school started (her family was not pleased!). She has since reinvented herself many times over, following many different career paths. She is contemplating making bassoon her next career move and is excited to see where it takes her.

On the right is Robin, who played bassoon until the age of 19—among the reasons she took a break is that she really didn’t like making reeds! She turned to viola for a few years. In 2015 she got herself a bassoon and has been playing ever since. Prior to joining CWSO, Robin played with the Ridgeville Concert Band of Evanston.

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

Meet the Orchestra: Violas

This week let’s meet the Violas. Front-row-left is Chelsea, a long-time member of Citywide Symphony. She started her musical training in classical viola, but about 10 years ago added jug band and jazz-style playing. She’s also a really good swing dancer, you can find her dancing at the Green Mill in Uptown or Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen. Front-row-right is Sharon. She played in her college orchestra in Florida. Back-row-left is Kirk. Kirk found the viola to be his Goldilocks instrument. He started in violin but found it too small as it cramped his hands and arms—but cello seemed much too big—viola was just right. Back-row-right is Ross. Ross dabbled in violin first as well, but in 5th grade, his conductor persuaded him to take up viola instead (he still has an inkling to try out the cello, though). He was also a piano major in college. He’s currently a French teacher at New Trier.

Ross is in good company, as we have a good many French speakers in our community orchestra. If you get to Rex’s Tavern on the right night, you might just find a whole table of folks conversing en francais.

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

Meet the Orchestra: Cellos

Ce-llo…is me you’re looking for? Look no further than our solid cello section. There are a lot of them – so please read to the bottom to get to know these fine folks who keep the beat steady in rehearsal!

Front row far right: Petr is the cello section’s fearless leader, having been with the Chicago Citywide Symphony Orchestra since 2008 when he first came to Chicago from the Czech Republic. He is actually in two community orchestras, and it was in the other group that he met his wife, a violinist. They now have a little boy who speaks three languages! Front row middle: Bole, pictured on his first night with the Citywide Symphony, joined the orchestra because his friends invited him to check it out. Front row far left: Marnie joined the Orchestra after chatting with Citywide members at Side by Side with the Philharmonic in Summer of 2018. She played the June 2019 concert just days before her due date, her baby bump helping to hold up her cello.

The back row from right to left is Kelsey, Cidnee, Jasmine, Michael, Ryan, and Stacy. Kelsey has been playing cello since 4th grade and just moved back to Chicago after 8 years in Oregon. She wants to know your favorite neighborhood, as she is on the hunt for a good apartment! Cidnee started cello in 5th grade and also just moved to Chicago. She just started her PhD in Psychology and, having moved from Florida, has yet to experience a Midwest winter. Jasmine is spending her second year in Chicago and says that after last year she’s here to stay. She loves the live music Chicago has to offer and that you don’t need a car to get everywhere. After she decided to stay, she looked for an orchestra where she could start playing again. Michael has been playing cello since 2006, and like most of the members of the orchestra took a music break when he started working. It was only recently that his mom suggested he look into playing again that he found Citywide Symphony (Thanks, mom!). Ryan found Citywide Symphony through his old high school conductor, who suggested it to him. Stacy has been playing cello for 30 years and is so happy to be playing with such a robust cello section.

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

Meet the Orchestra: French Horns

This week, meet the French Horns. Far Right, Michelle has been playing in orchestras throughout high school and college, then took a break to go to med school, residency, and is now an attending. The doctor is in and is happy to be picking up her instrument again to join Citywide Symphony. Middle Right, Roberto, has played in various orchestras and bands, notably the marching band at U of I, Urbana Champaign. Middle Left, Jessica played with the Chicago Citywide Symphony briefly in 2019 before the pandemic and is happy to be back. She became a big plant mom during the pandemic—and counts 25 happy plants in her home. Far Left, Lee has been with the orchestra for many years and is the treasurer on the CWSO Board of Directors. If you have any dues questions – seek out Lee, and she’ll be able to answer them for you.

Say hello to Michelle, Roberto, Jessica, and Lee next week at rehearsal!

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

Meet the Orchestra: Concertmaster

Meet our concertmaster, Martha Ash. Martha played in the CWSO when she was in middle school, back when it was known as the Student’s Symphony at Jefferson Park, under the baton of Ms. Fanny Hassler—the founder and director of the music program. Martha loved the orchestral playing experience and continued to play in community and college orchestras through high school, college, and in graduate school.

After marriage, the birth of her daughter, and starting her professional career, she stopped playing and really missed it. Finally, when her daughter was studying music, she spotted a music store poster advertising the orchestra and signed up immediately. Martha started in the back of the second violin section, initially hoping no one could hear her. It was difficult, and many times she wanted to quit.

Chung-Yoon Park, the previous conductor, kept moving Martha Ash up and was so encouraging and kind. So was everyone in the group. After two years, she was honored to be offered the role of concertmaster. Martha feels privileged to work with really fine musicians through her many years with CWSO. Martha is an orchestral player and loves playing in Jefferson Park and hopes that other musicians will feel the same support and kindness.

Interested in Joining?

The CWSO is open to any musicians who want to play—no auditions needed! Learn more about joining and come to the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse on Monday evenings to join us at rehearsal.

CWSO Fall Season Starts August 22

We’re delighted to announce the beginning of the Fall 2022 concert and rehearsal season for the Chicago City-Wide Symphony Orchestra! Join us again for full-group rehearsals starting Monday, August 22, 2022, from 6:45–8:45 pm at the Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse.

All instruments are welcome and encouraged to join us, but we are especially in need of viola, bassoon, horn, . No auditions are necessary, and all skill levels are welcome!

Currently scheduled fall performances include:

  • Sunday, October 30, 3 pm at Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse (1:00 pm dress rehearsal)
  • Sunday, December 18, 3 pm at Jefferson Memorial Fieldhouse (1:00 pm dress rehearsal)

Additionally, we also offer a small group session on Wednesdays from 5–7 pm for chamber music, collaborations with pianists, or even solo coaching. These groups will also have opportunities to perform before CWSO concerts as well as in standalone performances.

View our event calendar to see an up-to-date listing of all rehearsal and concert dates.

All members are required to sign up with the Chicago Park District (no cost) to join. Register on the park district website in advance, or come to a rehearsal and we can walk you through it.

If you have questions about the orchestra, how to join/register with the park district, or any other inquiries, don’t hesitate to reach out to or fill out this form

CWSO Welcomes Music Instructor Jason Ellis

Jason Ellis, Chicago Park District Music Instructor

Jason Ellis is thrilled to join the team at Jefferson Park as music instructor and Park liaison for CWSO!  Jason has taught at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Merit School of Music, The Chicago High School for the Arts, as well as his alma mater, The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.  During his eight years on faculty at ChiArts, he led the string department to four consecutive state championships (ILMEA) and has sent students to conservatories (with generous financial aid), including Juilliard, North Texas, and USC.  

Jason was a cast member and double bassist on the longest-running show in the history of Broadway in Chicago- Million Dollar Quartet; he has played national tours of Broadway shows, including Beautiful, Matilda, and School of Rock. Additional performance highlights include The Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival, The Kennedy Center, and The Olympic Games. Jason has served as Music Director for The Peninsula Hotel Chicago, TVK Orchestra, Artists Lounge Live, and numerous additional commercial ensembles.

Jason is pursuing an MFA in composition and orchestration from The University of Chichester in England; he has composed music for several feature-length films and has extensive experience as a professional arranger for Musical Theatre.  He is passionate about music education as an agent for social justice and holds certificates in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from The University of Michigan and ESSEC Business School in Paris. Jason and his wife Catherine own a historic greystone three blocks away from Portage Park; they are avid supporters of The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the city’s vibrant Theatre scene. Catherine is the Director of Operations for Ravinia Brewing Company and would love to pour you a beer, serve you some craft tacos, and tell you all about our cats.  

Jennifer Huang, Associate Conductor

Jennifer Huang

We are pleased to welcome Jennifer Huang as associate conductor for the CWSO! She will be joining us for the June 12, 2022, summer concert.

JENNIFER HUANG is a Taiwanese-American conductor currently serving as Assistant Conductor of the Northwestern University Symphony and Chamber Orchestras in the Bienen School of Music, where she is completing her graduate degree under the guidance of Victor Yampolsky. Her most recent engagements include Guest Director of the Merit School of Music Orchestras, Associate Conductor of the Chicago City-Wide Symphony Orchestra, Resident Conductor of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Santa Rosa Symphony Aspirante Youth Orchestra, and Assistant Conductor and Chorus Director of West Edge Opera.

While the majority of her work focuses on standard orchestral repertoire, Huang is also an active opera conductor. In the fall of 2019, Huang conducted a workshop of a new opera, Both Eyes Open, by Max Duykers and librettist Philip Gotunda, working alongside tenor John Duykers and members of the Paul Dresher Ensemble. In November of 2021, she served as conductor of the Bienen Fall Opera, completing six performances of Menotti’s The Medium with Northwestern University vocalists and members of the NU Symphony Orchestra. An accomplished violinist, pianist, and vocalist, Huang has performed under the baton of world-class artists such as Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, and David Robertson. In 2016, she graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a dual degree in Molecular Cell Biology and Music.